My eyes always light up when I see there is a press release from the National Farmers Federation, my fingers itch to hit the keyboard, knowing, for sure, there will be a column in there somewhere for me. So there we were last week, Labor and Liberal parties trying to outdo each other in developing a scheme that gave the most money to energy and coal companies while ensuring that reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was kept to an absolute minimum, certainly any time in the next century. And there were Larry, Curly and Moe, sorry, that should read Wilson, Barnaby and Steve, doing some comedy routine involving fish net stockings and a fruit head dress, in which they not only demanded no reduction in carbon dioxide, but wanted an increase above and beyond business as usual, just to teach those greenies a lesson.
And suddenly, there in the middle, was the Farmer's Federation (yes, the Farmer's Federation that had leading climate change denialist Professor Plimer address their national conference), demanding that not only should agriculture be excluded from whatever minimal emissions reduction scheme eventually got past any of the stooges for the next five years, but that it should be excluded forever, or an infinite number of years, whichever was longer. The Federation seems to see itself not as the NFF but as the MFF, the Mars Farmer's Federation, representing the population of the Red Planet, happily growing crops with irrigation from the melting polar ice caps, and sending the produce off in clipper space ships back to the mother planet of Earth. And Earth's concerns are of no concern to the farmers, not their problem, and if some socialist government wants to reduce emissions on Earth, well then, get on with it, but don't expect the farmers to be involved. "Don't call us", says the MFF, "we'll call you. Not."
It could be so different if the Federation saw themselves as part of the solution, not part of the problem. If they saw opportunities not costs. If they saw themselves as players not uninvolved onlookers. Is it not in the interests of farmers to reduce their energy use and dependence? Can we not look at more efficient engines, more efficient use? Would farmhouses not benefit from renewable energy supplies and insulation? Is it beyond imagining that a viable modernised rail network instead of semi trailers could once again serve country areas? Are there not farming practices (low tillage crops, biochar, changed pastures) that might reduce energy use, absorb CO2, reduce methane? Will farmers really be not interested in putting aside land for, and generating an income from, solar or wind or geothermal arrays? Can farmers not be involved in a greatly expanded LandCare style program to not just put a full stop to land clearing, but bring more wind breaks, tree clusters, native hedgerows to Australian farms? Should there be a nation-wide project to make every country town carbon neutral? Would not all of those things benefit country Australia as well as the rest of the continent that the farmers are, and it's odd to have to make the point, part of?
I don't remember reading that farmers demanded not to be involved at times when Australia was at war. On the contrary, farming sons and daughters flocked to the colours, and farmers themselves kept the home fires burning, kept the nation fed, did their bit, made do in difficult times. And in spite of what the three stooges seem to believe, and in spite of what the Labor and Liberal Parties are failing to do, we should be on a war footing now. The globe is warming, the climate (of Australia, and elsewhere on Earth, though not on Mars) is changing, and not for the better. And farmers are going to be not keeping home fires burning this time but in the front line.
On Mars its cold outside, there's no kind of atmosphere, time the NFF brought its members, all alone now, more or less, in from the cold, got them involved in the fight against global warming. It's going to take us all, working together, to win this fight.
All David Horton's earlier writing is here.